Scenes, musings and twitterings from five hours of hustling around Madison Square Garden on NBA draft night ...
1. The first thing I noticed upon walking into the Garden at 6:30 p.m. was the proposed seating arrangement pictured at right: Louisville's Rick Pitino and Kentucky's John Calipari had been assigned to back-to-back chairs just outside the green room. The ego-cramping in that scenario would've rivaled the physical cramping that occurred when the NBA seated Shawn Bradley and Manute Bol back-to-back at the 2004 draft. Pitino eventually sat in his seat while Calipari -- at least while I was in the room -- avoided his, which meant no awkward photos, and no opportunity for Kentucky fans to create Photoshops of him putting his feet in Pitino's hair.
2. The best thing heard out of the mouth of always-quotable former Louisville star Terrence Williams:
To Spaniard Ricky Rubio, backstage by the prospects' predraft buffet at 6:55 p.m.:
"You're nervous? Why are you nervous, when you've been making money since you were 11?"
3. The second-best T-Will line of the evening:
To an NBA employee in a hallway near the press conference area, after she asked if he was happy about being picked by the Nets:
"Of course. It's a great market."
4. I found two bizarre press releases sitting on a table in the press room early in the evening. The first was a plain sheet with the header "Bill Duffy Statement on Brandon Jennings", and then this paragraph:
Because we do not have [sic] strong grasp of Brandon's draft position, I've advised that he and his family enjoy this day in a more private setting with the people he loves the most. Brandon Jennings will have a very illustrious career in the NBA, and at the end of the day, that is all that is important." -- Bill Duffy, President and CEO, BDA Sports Management
In non-press-release terms, what that meant was that they were freaked out about the possibility Jennings would fall into the 20s and be the last man in the green room, so they pulled the weak move of hiding out in a suite at the draft hotel (the Westin Times Square). This was a Duffy-driven decision, but Jennings admitted to SI.com that family history played a role in it, too: He didn't want a repeat of what happened to his cousin, Marcus Williams, in the 2006 draft. Williams slid all the way to No. 22 and was the dreaded LMITGR, so, Jennings said, "I already had a little cold feet because of that."
Soon after he was taken by the Bucks with the 10th pick, Jennings, his mom, brother, cousin and Duffy all jumped in a car and high-tailed it over to MSG. Jennings was handed a Bucks hat on his way in the door, and made an entrance from the rear of the stage immediately after the Suns took Earl Clark at No. 14. Jennings, who became a trendsetter for playing in Italy after he couldn't get eligible at Arizona last season, is the first -- and possibly last -- first-rounder to show up on stage well after he'd been picked. He seemed pleased with his theatrics, telling SI.com, "I thought the entrance was tight. It'll probably make SportsCenter today."
5. The second peculiar press release -- headlined "OH, BROTHER!" -- had been issued by the Harlem Globetrotters, who wanted media to be aware that they had selected Oklahoma's Taylor Griffin (bro of No. 1 pick Blake) in some sort of mythical draft in which the Globetrotters appeared to be the only participant. (Until I see a press release from the Washington Generals, I'm assuming that to be the case.)
This was a presumptuous move by the 'Trotters, who clearly didn't expect Taylor to be selected with the No. 48 pick by the Suns. He had already left the building by the time he was picked, but I'm guessing that he'll choose the NBA Summer League over meeting Curly Neal.
(U.S. soccer goalkeeper Tim Howard, who's kind of busy at the moment trying to win the Confed Cup in South Africa, was also on the Globetrotters' list of draftees; they called him a "former high school basketball standout." I'm sure he considered jumping on the first plane to Harlem and skipping the Confed final.)
6. The NBA issued an edict before the draft for teams not to spoil draft picks by posting them on Twitter in advance of podium announcements from David Stern and Adam Silver. This rule didn't apply (or at least didn't reach) college coaches, as Oklahoma's Jeff Capel tweeted "Taylor Griffin to Phoenix at 48!!!!!!!!" at least three minutes before the pick was unveiled. The tweet would have been better had he added, "Suck it, Globetrotters!" at the end.
7. I left my newly created Twitter account (@lukewinn) open all day and collected a greatest hits list from the army of ballers/media folks I'm following. Here goes:
James Morgan, USF player and friend of T-Will, from the NBA draft luncheon Thursday:
@BiGG8ME23: Bigass Blake Griffin is in the bathroom tryna sneak a doo doo in...
St. Mary's guard (and eventual Blazers draftee) Patrick Mills:
@Patty_Mills: Just had a meat pie with the family in time square!!!
James Morgan again, from the luncheon:
@BiGG8ME23: David stern dont have a neck
T-Will, to fellow Rainier Beach (Seattle) alum Nate Robinson, from a Levi's promotional suite:
@TheRealTWill: @nate_robinson most def come by the Levi suit bro maddddddd gear
SLAM magazine's Lang Whitaker, at MSG:
@langwhitaker: Got stuck behind Sam Perkins on the way back from the dining area.
Calipari (unintentionally?) slighting ex-Memphis Tiger Shawn Taggart, who regularly drove Cal nuts in practice, by spelling his name wrong:
@UKCoachCalipari: At the NBA draft. Good luck 2 Jodie Meeks, Tyreke Evans, Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier & Shawn Taggert as they persue their dreams 2night
Ex-Dukie Shelden Williams upset over CNN's Michael Jackson coverage:
@SheldenWilliams why did CNN say self proclaim king of rock? if that isn't hating i don't know what is
Nets guard Devin Harris reacting on losing teammate Vince Carter to the Magic:
@devin34 just got home.this probably the roughest day of my life............carter got traded.................are you serious!!!!!
Former Michigan dunkmaster Brent Petway reacting to the talent pool at MSG:
@Airgeorgia: If I was only a few years younger this draft weak...
T'wolves forward Kevin Love reacting to his team's drafting of Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Ty Lawson in the first round:
@kevin_love what are we doing????????????????? omg we better trade....what are we doing??????????? i dont even know
Love, reacting to Jennings' draft-crashing move:
@kevin_love: brandon jennings is gonna be late to his own funeral
CNBC's Darren Rovell with a Brandon Jennings attendance update later in the evening:
@DarrenRovell1 ... Brandon Jennings hasn't showed for his own Under Armour party yet.
Knicks big man Eddy Curry, waking up at midnight:
@eddycurry: i know its late but i slept thru the draft i do it every year. i sleep thru it just in case i get moved. ill know when i get up
8. My wanderings at one point took me out near the corner of 31st Street and 8th Avenue, where a small crew of autograph hounds were hoping to catch draftees on their way out of MSG. Aside from confusing a random guy in a T'wolves draft hat for Jonny Flynn (and briefly surrounding the guy), the hounds were cool.
Joe Groglio, a 23-year-old from Rye, N.Y., was working on his already-impressive collection of signed Sports Illustrateds; he said he has roughly 1,800 of the 3,700 total magazines signed, "and a lot of the ones I don't have, are because the guys are dead." Groglio had already scored autographs on our preview issue regional covers of James Harden and Hasheem Thabeet, but apparently Thabeet hadn't been too careful in putting down his John Hancock. "He brutalized my magazine," Groglio said, shaking his head.
9. SI's Ian Thomsen reported that a significant number of team doctors refused to sign off on giving a guaranteed, first-round contract to DeJuan Blair and his questionable ACLs. Blair played on repaired knees for the past two years and established himself as the best offensive rebounder of the decade in college basketball. Letting him slip to San Antonio at 37 was idiotic. The Spurs didn't even have a first-round pick, and they had my favorite draft, landing Blair and sleeper Jack McClinton in the second round. Smart franchises keep doing smart things ... while the Kings, Wizards, Blazers, Nuggets, Pistons and Grizzlies all passed on Blair in the second round.
10. The last draftee in the green room was UCLA's Jrue Holiday, who went at No. 17 to the Sixers, but the last draftee in the building was St. Mary's (and Australian) sophomore Patty Mills, who had been projected as a possible first-rounder but dropped all the way to No. 55, where he was picked by the Blazers. My weirdest/saddest moment of the night was following Mills' progress after he'd been picked. Players who'd been taken earlier in the night went through a live ESPN interview, a press conference, 10 more TV interviews in a backstage area, a chat session with NBA.com, and few other promotional spots. Blake Griffin, for example, didn't finish up his obligations until 9:52 p.m., after being drafted at 7:39 p.m.
Mills, meanwhile, only got a quick ESPN radio spot (no TV), and then walked upstairs through empty hallways that, a few hours earlier, had been flooded with teenagers shouting players' names and asking for autographs. He walked through a press workroom with a few stragglers still hunched over laptops, then past a darkened press-conference area that was already being disassembled. A short interview with Craig Sager was the only thing waiting for him, and once that was over, Sager's crew shut off the lights.
For a guy who had declared early for the draft and had high expectations, Mills remained unfathomably upbeat about the whole thing: Right after his name was called, he stopped to high-five a bunch of fans who'd taken up his cause in the crowd, and when I asked him if he was upset, he said, genuinely, "This was still a special experience for me and my family; you don't get to come to New York, or Madison Square Garden, every day. Obviously, you want to go in the first round, but this is still a great opportunity, and that's all I can ask for. ... I don't have any regrets."
Where that opportunity will be, is still a question mark, since Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard reminded reporters later in the evening that Mills "does have an international passport."
11. For a player who was visibly not pleased with his draft situation, we turn to Memphis' Shawn Taggart. He posted this tweet on Friday morning after going undrafted as an underclass entry (as well as having his name misspelled by Calipari in a tweet):
"officially in [f---] it mode. horrible day."